What began as an attempt to market a new menu offering has turned into a full-fledged rebranding effort for IHOP, famously known for its pancakes. The restaurant chain recently changed its name, raising the question of whether the new brand is here to stay or simply a PR stunt to shake up customer attitudes about the restaurant.
IHOP stands for International House of Pancakes — that is, until the company announced the name change to IHOb without immediately explaining what the ‘b’ stood for. IHOP’s shock tactic sent fans into a frenzy, driving conversations on social media from curious customers, competing brands and others perplexed by the sudden switch. Twitter threads sizzled with debate; a large majority thought the ‘b’ stood for breakfast, while others hoped for ‘brunch’ or ‘bacon.’
Finally, on June 11, IHOb announced that the ‘b’ actually stands for burgers in support of a new line of Ultimate Steakburgers. Chief Marketing Officer Brad Haley explained the restaurant wanted to show consumers it’s serious about the new menu direction. So, did they make the right decision?
Here are three lessons we can learn from IHOb’s name change and how to successfully build a B2B brand with longevity.
Align your brand with your purpose
It is quite easy to lose sight of your company’s identity when devising a new branding strategy. That is why it is so important to revisit your core purpose and mission statement to ensure that it aligns with the new direction. Although IHOP has changed its name to IHOb (at least for the time being), they have kept their philosophy, vision and values the same. IHOP’s core philosophy is for customers to “be yourself and enjoy special moments with family and friends.” The chain’s vision and values are comprised of seven facets: integrity, accountability, excellence, inclusion, community, innovation and trust. Since pancakes are not specifically mentioned anywhere, IHOP had the liberty to change its brand without changing its purpose.
There are times, however, when companies decide to revamp branding, whether it be in response to a new sales strategy, as a mechanism for improving an outdated image or potentially to create a clean slate after a PR crisis. Regardless of what compels a brand to change, the objective should be universal: identify future goals and stick with it.
In the B2B world, nurturing a new brand identity will take time and effort, but it needs to remain true to what the company represents in the market. As long as a B2B company envisions the brand and the purpose together — where each strengthens and reinforces the other — there is bound to be success in any rebranding endeavor.
There’s no bad publicity, right?
Whether IHOb’s decision to launch this rebrand is a short-term stunt or permanent change is still a looming question. Despite criticism, the restaurant did create word-of-mouth buzz, for better or worse. A brand must be conscious of what types of conversations are generated; even though sparking conversation online can be great for visibility, there will always be negative comments that could affect brand equity.
Brand equity is built over time and based on consumer perception of the brand name as opposed to any specific product or service it offers. The last thing any brand would want to do is tarnish its reputation because of one wrong move. IHOb has boldly chosen to emphasize burgers as its standout offering, which could accelerate the decline of not just their pancake business, but their overall business.
That is why it is imperative for B2B companies to introduce a new brand to the public in a way that retains loyal customers and attracts new ones. What’s important to B2B brands when it comes to creating positive buzz is taking the time to carefully develop the message — and to anticipate and mitigate negative word-of-mouth scenarios to limit the potential for a bad situation.
Develop clear, strong messaging
A large part of selling a new brand concept is ensuring that your business has developed messaging that resonates with target audiences. Creating buyer personas is a great way to test out different messaging tailored for different audiences. For example, IHOb’s messaging emblazoned on its website and Twitter page makes a bridge between the old brand and the new direction: “We burger as good as we pancake. And no one pancakes like we pancake.” The statement seeks to attract new audiences without alienating old fans by mixing the familiar and the fresh.
For B2B companies, strong messaging needs to keep a piece of its old identity and gradually try something new. In this case, IHOb’s rebrand was not as gradual as it could have been. However, the chain has still kept pancakes on their menu and the new wordmark logo is still easily recognizable, even with the change from a ‘P’ to a ‘b.’
Reinventing a B2B brand takes time and dedication, but with these guidelines in mind and some inspiration from IHOb’s experience, your company will be on its way to a bright start.